When bringing a child into the home, parents take many safety precautions. Unfortunately, those precautions do not always ensure that the child will avoid harm. Electrocution may not happen often, but its effects can be deadly. Household wiring and large and small appliances cause the majority of electrocutions in the U.S each year. In 1997 (which is the most current data available), the CPSC found that 86 percent of reported injuries involved children 1 to 4 years old. The most common foreign objects stuck into electrical outlets were keys and hairpins. There are several options you can implement to help protect your children against this preventable safety hazard.
Most parents know to install plastic outlet protectors for all the outlets within their child’s reach. But do they really protect as well as we assume? A 1997 Temple University study tested the effectiveness of the different types of plastic outlet protectors with 37 children ages 2 to 4 years. For the round, flat face style protector with two prongs, 47% of the 4-year-olds and 31 % of the 2-year-olds were able to remove this protector. Another oval style had a 3/16″ thick oval face with tapered sides. Again, 47% of the 4-year-olds but only 18% of the 2-year-olds could remove this type of protector. Yet another style with a 1/16″ thick face and lacking tapered sides could be removed by all of the 2- and 4-year-olds!
However, you do have other choices. Some manufacturers make a child tamper-resistant outlet, rather than a cover. They resemble regular outlets, but behind the face of the outlet are plastic shutters. The shutters remain closed until something is inserted into both vertical outlet holes at the same time, at which point the shutters open and the plug can be inserted. This design is based upon the premise that most children will not stick two objects in the same two vertical outlet holes at the same time. This type of outlet costs between $6.00 to $8.00 each compared to a typical electrical outlet receptacle that usually costs no more than $5.00 a piece.
Outlet face covers are another option for you to consider. These covers have faces that swivel or slide over the outlet holes, requiring you to push the cover away while inserting the plug for a secure fit. These covers range from $6.00 to $10.00 each. Both the tamper-resistant outlet and the face covers should be available at your local home improvement or electrical supply store. Whatever type of protection you choose, ensure that you take some of these simple steps to protect your children from this very real safety hazard.